As the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approach this summer, six new sports are making their debuts.
Skateboarding, surfing, speed climbing and karate will feature at the Olympics for the first time, with softball returning after a 13-year hiatus. Meanwhile, badminton and taekwondo are the newest additions to the Paralympic Games.
GiveMeSport Women take a look at all newbies, plus softball, to see what each sport has to offer. We also go over which athletes you should watch out for.
For the first time in Olympic history, skateboarding was introduced, which could bring a whole new audience to the Games. In addition to the beginnings of sports surfing and BMX cycling, the Summer Olympics took steps to include less traditional urban sports. Break dancing is expected to be included in Los Angeles 2024, for example.
Skateboarding will have two disciplines exhibited at Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.
The street is based on your normal street with obstacles mimicking everyday objects like curbs, railings and benches. There is a time limit but skaters are free to decide their route around the course.
Park is synonymous with traditional skate park – a bowl-shaped course with steep walls where jumps and flying tricks are commonplace.
Britain’s skateboarding hopes rest on 12-year-old Sky Brown. She specializes in the park event and could become the youngest summer Olympian on the GB team. The Anglo-Japanese youngster recently returned to action after recovering from life-threatening injuries, earning herself a silver medal on the Dew Tour in Iowa earlier this week.
In the street, Brazilian Leticia Bufoni will be the favorite to win in Tokyo and add another gold medal to her collection. She is already a five-time street champion at the X Games, with her most recent victory in 2019.
Bufoni will face competition from compatriot Rayssa Leal, 13, with Aori Nishimura, who became the first Japanese athlete to win X Games gold in 2017. She hopes to replicate her success in her hometown.
Surfing is one of the few sports to celebrate gender equality. The World Surf League (WSL) announced in 2019 that men and women will receive an equal prize at each WSL event. So it’s fantastic that the sport is getting more visibility than ever before, on the sands of Tsurigasaki Beach in July.
So how will this work at the Olympics?
The initial events are made up of sets of four or five, followed by the main rounds which consist of two-person sets where the winner advances to the next round.
Surfing, like many other Olympic sports, is considered a subjective sport, with the judges deciding which surfer performed the best. A jury of five will judge performance based on the degree of difficulty, variety and combination of maneuvers, as well as speed, power and flow.
The United States of America and Australia have long been known as the leaders in women’s surfing, with Brazilian perspectives appearing from time to time as well.
A native of Hawaii, Carissa Moore will represent the United States at the Games and currently sits atop this year’s World Surfing Women’s League (WSL) Championship Tour, making her the champion to beat. But a seven-time world champion stands in her way. Australian Stephanie Gilmore is the most successful surfer on the tour and a gold medal in Tokyo would be the perfect addition to her trophy cabinet.
Shino Matsuda is the host nation’s most promising surfing talent. She is currently the youngest surfer to qualify for the Olympics, at just 18 years old.
There will be one final shot at qualifying for the World Surfing Games starting May 29.
Karate is perhaps the most appropriate earliest sporting story. The exact origins of the martial art are unknown but the sport has become systematized in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa.
There have been several attempts to include karate in the Games before, but every entry was rejected until the arrival of Tokyo 2020. So what will karate bring to the Olympics?
Karate will have two events – kata and kumite.
Kata focuses on forms with the athlete – the karateka – performing offensive and defensive moves targeting a virtual opponent. They are judged on the accuracy and power of their techniques.
Kumite is divided into weight classes and consists of two karateka facing each other for the purpose of striking blows at their opponent. Points are awarded based on where you hit your opponent and what body part you are using.
The Olympic karate qualifying tournament, which kicks off on June 11, is the last chance to secure a spot at the Games. The British Karate Federation is sending four female athletes in hopes of climbing the Olympic ladder and securing British representation for the Olympic debut of karate.
Sport climbing has also been added to the list of sports making its debut in Tokyo, and it is a great chance for the sport to present itself to the world.
The discipline of speed is perhaps the simplest concept of climbing. Two climbers are given identical routes on a 15m high wall placed at a 95 degree angle. The fastest at the top wins. The world record was set by Russian athlete Yulia Kaplina in November 2020, when she climbed the wall in 6.964 seconds.
As a boulder, athletes attempt to climb as many fixed routes as possible in four minutes. This discipline is less about speed than about precise route planning. There are no safety ropes for the 4m high wall and climbers can restart a route if they fall.
The main event involves climbers trying to climb as high as possible on a wall that is over 15m, with a time limit of six minutes. If two or more athletes reach the top of the wall, the climber with the fastest time wins.
Shauna Coxsey is the only British athlete, male or female, to qualify for the Games. She won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships to qualify for Tokyo, finishing behind Janja Garnbret of Slovenia and Japanese mountaineer Akiyo Noguchi in the bouldering and combined events.
She recently spoke with GiveMeSport Women about her Olympic preparations.
Softball did not make its Olympic debut, but it returned, along with baseball, after a 13-year hiatus. Both sports made their last appearance at Beijing 2008.
Softball at the Olympics is played only by women, while baseball is the equivalent for men’s teams. The two sports share a similar set of rules, however, softball is played on a slightly smaller court and with a larger ball. Players should also use an underarm throw.
The hosts are the defending champions and will be happy to see the sport return to the Games, as the United States hopes to add a fourth softball gold to their total, having won in 1996, 2000 and 2004. L Australia is a three-time bronze medalist and will be seen as an underdog in the gold race.
The Paralympic Games also gave way to two new sports. There will be six women’s para-badminton events with five singles rankings and one doubles competition, with a mixed doubles event also included.
Japan’s Sarina Satomi is the current WH1 singles world champion, while China dominates the WH2 event with three medalists at the 2019 World Championships.
There will be a disappointment for British athletes Rachel Choong and Rebecca Bedford, who compete in the SS6 singles event which is included at Tokyo 2020 for male athletes but not female athletes. Choong won a silver medal at the last world championships while Bedford finished with the bronze medal.
Taekwondo will also make its Games debut in August at Mukuhari Messe. K43 and K44 athletes will compete together in one class, in three different weight categories.
Great Britain has always been successful in taekwondo with Jade Jones, Sarah Stevenson and Bianca Walkden all Olympic medalists. Beth Munro and Amy Truesdale hope to add to this success and be the first to win a gold medal in taekwondo at the Paralympic Games.
Munro will compete in the -58kg event, and Truesdale will be the favorite in the + 58kg category as the world’s top ranked athlete in that division.